July 2016 has been a significant month for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 news. Fans got introduced to the new Ravagers cast, learned a bit more about Sylvester Stallone’s role, and, even, got the first official confirmation of Disneyland Resort’s new theme park ride. (Hey – that’s San Diego Comic-Con for you, right?)
But the biggest news of them all is, without question, the answer to the first film’s biggest question: just who is Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) dad? During the convention, none other than director James Gunn himself was only too happy to answer it, nearly a full year before Vol. 2’s release: it’s Ego, the Living Planet, and he’s being played by Kurt Russell.
Understandably, many would consider this to be something of a huge spoiler; after all, fans have been waiting for two years for the answer, and given the way it was built up at the end of the first Guardians, it would seem to be a huge payoff in the sequel. Gunn, however, has recently taken to Facebook to explain why it isn’t. Starting with the explanation that film journalists would end up spoiling it, anyway, he went on to address another practicality of filmmaking: marketing. “We have to advertise our film. And it will be impossible to show you very much of Vol. 2, since Ego is very much a part of all of it. We just don’t have a way around it.” He then capped it off with this wry observation:
That said, knowing who Quill’s father is will not diminish your enjoyment of the film in any way. The story is not built to be a shocking twist in the same way [that] Luke’s father was Darth, Soylent Green was people, Rosebud was a sled, or that that pretty woman from Crying Game had a penis (I guess I should have said spoilers before all that). Ego [is] the emotional center of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from the beginning to the end, and is not a twist.
Modern Hollywood advertising certainly has come a long way since its glory days in the 1930s and ‘40s (by the way: if you don’t think older films were spoiled in previous decades, just go watch practically any trailer from the ‘60s, which spell out almost the entire movie in one fell swoop). In the 2010s, we’ve gotten to the point where Marvel will routinely announce how many after-credits scenes are in the upcoming release, and where Warner Bros. allowed invitees to publicly discuss their set visit to Justice League even before the embargo for the imminent Suicide Squad lifted.
Setting aside Gunn’s explanation that the character of Ego is built into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s very narrative fabric and is, thus, impossible to avoid, there is, essentially, only one other tack that the various studios can take: outright lying, the very path that Warners (ironically) and Christopher Nolan took with The Dark Knight Rises, having actress Marion Cotillard look reporters in the eye and swear that her character, Miranda Tate, wasn’t a cover for Talia al Ghul.
While there is, arguably, much utility to this approach – it kept audiences surprised when finally viewing the movie – there is also much in the way of negative blowback, with viewers (at least, those who constantly kept up with Rises’s news) feeling betrayed and, now, learning to be distrustful of any cast and crew interviews or of official marketing from the studios (just look at Jena Malone’s role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was hotly debated no matter what the official word was [or wasn’t]). There is definitely a value proposition between withholding twists and generating a negative atmosphere amongst film fans, and it’s interesting to see how Marvel, corporate parent Disney, and sister-company Lucasfilm continue to play with that balance.
Doctor Strange opens in U.S. theaters on November 4, 2016, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, May 1, July 10, and on November 6, 2020.
Source: James Gunn